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Author Topic: Lettering homebrew front panels - custom lettering made easy!  (Read 11879 times)
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W1VD
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« on: April 25, 2010, 06:31:01 PM »

Doing a good looking lettering job on the front panel of a homebrew project is always a challenge - especially if you're looking for something better than the usual dry transfer letters or Dymo labels. Several folks that have seen this project have asked about the lettering...so here's some info that may be useful.


The lettering was purchased on line from http://doityourselflettering.com/ -  an excellent site that allows one to create self stick vinyl lettering - the same as used by many sign shops. You spec out the lettering size, font (lots to choose from), and a host of special effects such as borders, drop shadow and curved text, etc. An interactive window updates your text to show your latest concoction. The process is simple and straightforward all the way through to completion of the order.

Just a quick note about saving money by doing your own 'weeding and taping'.  The labels come off their machines between two pieces of clear thin acetate type material. The letters are cut but the extra material between the letters (and in the letters - like the hole in the letter "P") is still there. Basically, the weeding and taping process involves removing the top acetate (peels right off) and removing the extra material from between letters. This comes off as one long piece. An Exacto knife makes removing the extra material from within the letters easy. A strip of masking tape is then  applied on top of the letters. To make placement of the letters in the next step simpler align the bottom of the tape with the bottom of the letters. Peel the masking tape and the letters are now stuck to the masking tape. I used blue masking because it was handy and it's possible to just see the letters through the tape which aid in placement. A thin brown masking tape might be a better choice.

Free handing the placement of the letters is probably not advisable - you only get one chance. I used a piece of masking tape stuck to the panel as a guide. The top of this piece of tape is where I wanted the bottom edge of the letters. Get this tape on the panel straight and your letters will be placed straight. Remember in the earlier step the bottom of the letters were aligned with the bottom of the 'transfer' tape. Now it's a simple matter to align the bottom of the 'transfer' tape with the the top of the tape used as a guide. Once the letters are in contact with the panel press lightly on each letter and carefully remove the masking tape. Use a piece of the discarded acetate to burnish the letters to the panel.

Some observations:

Do It Yourself Lettering will do the 'weeding and taping' for you but they get big $ to do it and the tape is not necessarily applied or cut straight. The orange letters used on this project are 0.4" tall and were a piece of cake to weed, tape and install. The white lettering is 0.15" tall and a bit more challenging...but the small lettering is dirt cheap so get a couple sets. Instead of ordering individual words for the small lettering I ordered one long string with double spaces in between words.

The lettering is designed to last a minimum of 5 years outdoors so it's pretty durable,  but it's hard to say how it will stand up as panel lettering. The rack panel used for this project was a pre-painted black texture unit and the letters adhere very well. However, repeated fingernail contact would likely cause damage. A smooth panel would no doubt provide a better surface for the lettering and a layer of clear would offer further protection. Since the lettering isn't that expensive doing it over a number of years down the road wouldn't be that big a deal.

Apparently they can also work with graphics. Presumably one could do a dial type layout in a graphics program (like Adobe Illustrator) and have it made.

Needless to say there are many other uses for lettering. Suggest checking out the pictures in the 'testimonial' section. Playing around creating sample lettering costs nothing.

Info on the Pulse Width Modulator project can be found at: http://www.w1vd.com/PWM.html           

   
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WB3JOK
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2010, 08:36:14 PM »

I also recommend Front Panel Express. Large panels can get a bit pricey but the CNC milled letters and openings are perfect.
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Steve - WB3HUZ
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2010, 09:02:00 PM »

Beautiful! Thanks for the info.
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WA1GFZ
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2010, 10:42:55 PM »

Jay,
Now turn everyone on to John the powder coat man.
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W1VD
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2010, 04:58:55 PM »

If you're looking for powder coat in the CT area (or beyond) I'd suggest talking to John at Precision Powder Coating LLC., 20-J Hultenius St., Suite 1, Plainville CT (860)747-8626. He's been doing custom powder for 10 years.

On recent visits to his shop I saw an interesting mix of ordinary looking items and high end car and motorcycle parts. Items requiring stripping are sent out but John does all the metal prep work including precision masking of areas to be left unpainted. The last time I was there he was masking off lettering on Ferrari valve covers. He's got a good sized oven that looks like it might be tall enough to hold a 6' rack...if not, it should fit horizontal.

Looking at the various finished parts awaiting customer pickup certainly inspires confidence. So far John has powder coated an RCA CR-88 and an SX-28A cabinet for me with excellent results and he's black wrinkled a panel for Frank's 'big rig'.  He'll spend as much time as needed to pick out the correct color and texture from the numerous swatches from many powder suppliers, but be advised that ordering powder instead of using what he has in inventory will drive up the price. Frank's panel was sprayed with Harley Davidson black wrinkle - which I'm told is always in stock. Expect the job to take several weeks - longer if special powder must be ordered. Believe he even accepts items 'mail order'.

I have no affiliation with the company - just a satisfied customer spreading the word.

         
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KD6VXI
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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2010, 01:55:21 AM »

For people in the San Diego area, I can vouch for the powder coating shop in El Cajon on Johnson Ave...  Couple doors down from California Electronics (Junkshop).

If I remember the name, I'll post it later, but they have done BEAUTIFUL jobs on the Palomar sweep tube amp collection I amassed in High School.  Took EACH one completely apart, had the chassis powder coated, and learned that RF grounds don't penetrate powdercoating very well!  Makes nice capacitors (low voltage, though).

The shop was so nice as to redo the first one I brought in after I explained what happened.

--Shane
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KC2YOI
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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2010, 08:04:20 AM »

Some friends own a sign shop down on Long Island. If you visit and hang around BS'ing you will be put to work picking vinyl signs.
What I learned from this is that a pair of high quality FISKARS tweezers with an angled head is the way to go. ( NEVER mess with someone Else's FISKARS  Tongue  )

                               Black Wrinkle in powder coat, that's nice....

                                                                      Dylan
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KM1H
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2010, 08:23:11 AM »

Jay, would you ask him if he has done an exact National Blue? Ive a rusty HRO-500 cabinet that needs the works. Id rather not do a cold call if he doesnt know what Im talking about.

Carl
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WA1GFZ
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2010, 11:24:44 AM »

I was very happy with my front panel. A guy I work with turned me on to John.
He stripped my panel and shot it for $60. A bit high but when you consider the time to do a strip job at home and shoot from a can it was well worth it. Power coat is all we use at work on our products.
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W1VD
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2010, 03:38:49 PM »

Carl

John's not radio savvy (yet) so manufacturers colors would mean nothing to him. One would have to look through the swatches to find a match - if by luck the color already exists. Apparently a few of the powder companies will make custom powder from a color sample.

Might be helpful to start a database of powder colors that match different manufacturers equipment as they are found.  Here's my contribution so far...

RCA CR-88A brown: PBB-3064 Industrial Waste (yes, that's the name of the color)

SX-28A: PWB-2767 Desert Charcoal Wrinkle

Unfortunately, these were not in John's stock. Minimum buy is ~ 5 lbs of powder - enough to paint about a dozen cabinets. I have a half dozen SX-28A and nondescript cabinets that need powder so for that color it was worthwhile. As far as I know any shop can shoot any powder so you could package up the leftover and send it to a buddy who can have his stuff shot locally.

A number of companies sell powder coat setups for home use for not too much $. All you need is an oven to bake the powder once applied - think something around 400 deg is required. Probably not advisable to use the one in the kitchen unless you live alone...or would like to.

     
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w3jn
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« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2010, 05:12:17 AM »

I think this thread will need to move to the Handbook section once it settles down.

There's some absolutely outstanding resources mentioned here - thanks, guys!
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Mike/W8BAC
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« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2010, 09:44:38 AM »

I second JN's suggestion. I want to look again at this when I have time. Finding it would be easier in the Handbook section. Thanks Jay for the tips!

Mike
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